Understanding Digestive Supplements: A Guide

by Laura Purcell

Maintaining a healthy digestive system is important for overall well-being. While a healthy balanced diet is crucial for digestive health, there are several categories of digestive supplements available that can help offer additional support. *  Here, we will explore different categories of digestive supplements, including probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics, digestive enzymes, fiber, as well as traditionally used herbs.

Probiotics are stomach-friendly live bacteria that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts.* They help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for proper digestion and immune function.* Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, or in supplement form.

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Prebiotics, on the other hand, are non-digestible fibers that act as food for probiotics.*  They help stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut.* Foods that provide prebiotics include garlic, onions, bananas, and asparagus. Prebiotic supplements are also available.

Postbiotics are the byproducts of the metabolism of friendly bacteria. They include short-chain fatty acids and other beneficial compounds that support gut health.* Postbiotics are naturally produced by probiotics during fermentation and can also be found in certain foods or supplements. Research on postbiotics is still emerging, but they may have positive effects on gut health and overall well-being.*

What Are Postbiotics? Discover the Benefits

Digestive enzymes are substances that help break down food into smaller, more easily absorbed molecules. They assist in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.* This makes these nutrients available for the body’s cellular energy needs, cell growth, and other vital functions.* Digestive enzyme supplements can help ensure optimal digestion and contribute to good nutritional health.* It’s best to take digestive enzymes with a meal to help them do their job.*

Get to Know Three Digestive Enzymes: Papain, Bromelain, and Lactase

Fiber plays a key role in maintaining digestive health.* It helps maintain healthy functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and supports heart health.* Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. However, if you’re looking to increase fiber intake, you may consider fiber supplements, which can help support regularity and overall digestive function.* Standard fiber supplements typically contain a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, aiding in overall digestive health.*

Four Questions and Answers About Fiber

Herbs have been used for centuries to support digestive health.* Cascara sagrada is an herb traditionally used as a laxative to help with occasional constipation and promote regularity.*^ Ginger supports digestive health and can even help ease occasional motion sickness.* Incorporating these or other herbs into your routine may contribute to digestive well-being.* However, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating any herbal supplements into your wellness routine.

Four Herbs That Support Digestive Health

^Traditional use claims are based on historical or traditional practices. Modern use of cascara sagrada as a laxative stems from its use in traditional Northwest Native American health practices.

Digestive supplements can be valuable tools in supporting digestive health.* Probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, while digestive enzymes aid in the breakdown of food.* Fiber and psyllium promote regularity, and herbs like ginger support a healthy digestive system.* However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement routine. Remember, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management are also crucial for maintaining optimal digestive health.

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